From non-existent to Stanley Cup runner-up, the Las Vegas Golden Knights are making a name for themselves. Early last season, it was a joke to consider that Vegas would even make the playoffs. They had a few washed up superstars, a handful of young guys that had not proven themselves, many no-name players, and an all-star goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury. It all started from the expansion draft and the reveal of the team name and logo. The hockey world was buzzing with excitement and Las Vegas citizens had finally gotten a professional sports team.
Clouded by the image of “Sin City” and gambling, Vegas had never gotten recognition for being a civil city with residents living there. The Golden Knights organization single-handedly turned that around and put them on the map as a hockey haven.
They started out with a great start, winning on the road against the Dallas Stars 2-1. They were tied 1-1 with 2:44 left and then “Real Deal” James Neal rifles a shot, while falling, to give the Golden Knights a lead and his second goal of the game. They kept rolling and by game 50 they had already broken the expansion team record with 34 wins and by the end of the season, they were top of the division finishing with 109 points and a record of 51-24-7. Only 8 points short of the Presidents Trophy winners (Best record in the NHL), Nashville Predators. An outstanding regular season, breaking records and dismantling opponents, they were ready for playoffs as the 1st seed on their side of the division and 3rd in the Western Conference.
Right off the bat, they took care of business against a strong, defensive-minded team, the LA Kings. Led by Hart Trophy nominee, Anze Kopitar, they were still no match for the Knights chemistry and determination, getting knocked out in just four games. On cloud nine, Vegas was prepared to go into shark-infested waters and take down the San Jose Sharks. They put up a much better fight but in the end, they couldn’t match the speed of Vegas’ first line and fourth line depth. They beat the Sharks 4-2 capping the series of on the road, once again. After two hard-fought series wins, they now faced their toughest opponent, the Winnipeg Jets. Finishing second in the conference, behind Nashville, the Jets were a strong team. Vegas lost their first game, on the road. After that, they won the next four sending them to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Washington Capitals where they lost 4-1 in the series after a great inaugural season.
They’ve added depth players to their roster for the upcoming season, such as Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. But they’ve let a few key guys go like James Neal, Tomas Tatar, and young star Nick Suzuki. Not to mention, arguably their best defensemen, Nate Schmidt, is out for 20 games due to a suspension for illegal use of prescription drugs. The future is looking positive for the Golden Knights but they need to find their chemistry early if they want a chance at Lord Stanley’s Cup again this season.